You probably don’t think there were many nose jobs performed during the Renaissance in Europe. However, the practice of cosmetic nasal surgery was surprisingly common and highly sought after during this time in history. The reason why is much different than the driving motivation for rhinoplasty today.
Syphilis is a nasty sexually transmitted disease that made its way around Europe during the 16th century. Syphilis was incurable until penicillin came onto the scene in 1928.
People with syphilis also usually developed a condition known as “saddle nose.” This is when the bridge of the nose caves into the face. Saddle nose is accompanied by the gradual rotting away of the surrounding flesh.
In Renaissance society, saddle nose became a mark of stigma. For those unafflicted, saddle nose was a symbol of the sufferer’s moral shortcomings and corruption.
Tagliacozzi became famous for his unique surgical methods. Instead of cutting a piece of skin off of the forehead and attaching it to the nose (as was common at the time), Tagliacozzi did something counterintuitive.
There were some who argued Tagliacozzi’s method was inferior to the more popular rhinoplasty of the time known as the “Indian Method.” In fact, there were a few reports of the noses that Tagliacozzi created turning purple and falling off in the winter.
Though Tagliacozzi’s method fell out of fashion after his death, it was still occasionally used. This solider’s face was severely damaged in 1944, and Tagliacozzi’s Italian Method was employed to rebuild it.
(source The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice)
Reading all of this makes me glad that I live in 2015, and that penicillin is bountiful. I would never want to go through the pain of growing a nose on my arm.